In this episode of NEStalgia, we're climbing our way to the top…that is if we can time the jump correctly. It's the NES Launch Title, Ice Climber!
Is It Still Fun?
Ice Climber feels like an arcade game. Climb your way up the different mountains as they scale in difficulty, complexity, and enemies. There's little randomization involved in the game so it really becomes a bout of skill over reflexes. I think anyone could make it to Mountain 5 with little setback, but from there on out this game gets really hard really fast. And that's probably where it starts to feel really Arcade like in the traditional sense. Get you hooked on the concept and then when the going gets tough you'll have to keep feeding in quarters if you want more gameplay. Thankfully, there are no quarters to be given in this NES title because you'll be dying a lot. For us, that's when this game stopped being fun. Restarting from the beginning, slogging through the easy levels and then being destroyed by the later ones. That's a tried and true NES formula later on, but right now in the chronology, this is the first time we're really seeing it in action.
Is It Still Playable
Ice Climber has one setback that is immediately noticeable as soon as you start the game. The jump action. Some of us couldn't go on because the jump was so frustrating. It's hard to describe unless you play it yourself, but your jump does not allow a lot of movement (which is especially weird considering just how high you jump). Think about how restrictive and forceful jumping feels in the arcade game Donkey Kong and now imagine something even more restrictive. For some this will make the game borderline unplayable by today's standards. As mentioned, the difficulty also ramps up very quickly, but if you're playing NES games we're sure that you have some understanding of what you're signing up for.
Is It Still Important?
Ice Climber has had almost no lasting impact on the gaming industry. In fact, we're hard pressed to believe that if not for Nana and Popo's appearance in Super Smash Bros. Melee, no one would even really consider this a Nintendo game. Yet, here we are talking about an R&D1 game programmed by Super Mario Bros. main programmer, Kazuaki Morita. Kind of amazing how much he learned about jumping between Ice Climber and Super Mario. Bros.
Ice Climber is arcade fun level design with the most frustrating jump in recent memory. The variety is lovely, the difficulty questionable, but there's enough here to say it's worth checking out. If only to find out the exact reason why we don't consider it essential. Interesting to think of what could have been if Nintendo spent a little more time fine tuning this one.